That Moment When a New Idea Emerges

Something I always hate is when I’m in the middle of one project, and an idea for  second project shows up in my head.  It happened when I was writing The Majin Among us with the long since shelved project simply titled COLA, and it’s happened now.

For those who don’t follow my Facebook page, why the hell not!?  Also, amidst the vast amounts of links to Vegas Golden Knights news and net neutrality arguments, I do post progress reports on my projects that are too short to include in a blog post.  If you’ve been following my Facebook page, you’ll know that Realm of the War Pigs, Book 1 of The Highway Men, is in the proofreading phases.  I finished the writing for it this past Thursday, and before I pack my shit and move into mynew apartment, I have been getting as much proofreading into the second draft as possible.

Then, earlier today, I decided to just sit down, and write out a thought in my head.  This thought, as of this writing, has since become one chapter of a new idea I have for a…  Thing.

I know for sure this much about the project.  Essentially, it’s a superhero story told from the perspective of a reporter.  Not the most original idea, probably…  Although so far, the reporter in my story is a Hunter S. Thompson caliber mess.  Articles often devolve into rambling madness, she often hooks up with both the hero AND the villain.  There’s probably some bingedrinking and some peyote involved, but I haven’t gotten that far into the story yet.

The original title was going to be Fear and Loathing in Metropolis, but I figured DC would sue me into oblivion for that one.  So I’m making a universe of my own.  Which I honestly like better.  Also, I don’t have to slog through hundreds of thousands of articles on random wikis about this or that.  I can really just make it up as I go when it’s MY universe.  All the more reason I tend to favor fictional towns and fictional worlds.

This is in no way or shape guaranteed to manifest into anything right now.  While I AM tinkering with this idea in my downtime, a lot of my energy is focused on finishing book 1 of The Highway Men.  The rest…  Well, the rest is focused on the move.

The thing about The Highway Men, though, is that I’m planning on making it a more episodic series.  Sure, it would benefit the reader to start at book 1, and read them in order.  However, if you’re like my mom, and pick up book 3 thinking it’s all the same no matter what, you probably won’t be as lost with The Highway Men as you might be with something like The Gael Saga.

An episodic series means I can take breaks from it when I get bored, and focus on other ideas when I’m not feeling it.  Trust me, after The Gael Saga, I don’t know if I’m going to do another continuous series like that.  I was very proud of how that series turned out, and I still am for the most part.  However, I still remember how much of a slog that project ended up being, and how much I wanted to work on other projects while I was banging out book 2 and book 3.  Especially book 3.

With a more episodic approach, I can either keep riding the momentum all the way into the next one, or I can take a break and try out a new project idea like I appear to be now.  It’ll probably annoy the people who want me to just shut up and write their favorite series…  But whatever.  If the internet has taught me anything in my lifetime, it’s that it is literally impossible to please everybody.  I’m thankful for every fan I get, and every review I receive, but at the same time, I’m in no hurry to give the pen to the audience.

Again, I can’t guarantee anything will come of this tinkering.  However, if something does, I’ll be sure to talk about it here as well as my facebook.

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My Journey to ConQuesT

I’m no stranger to conventions.  I’ve attended Anime Festival Wichita a couple times.  I watched Anime Nebrascon go from small little convention being held in a community college to massive convention occupying an entire hotel in the span of four years.  I attended Planet Comicon last year to watch Kevin Smith and…  Uh…  The other guy (not Jason Muse), record Fat Man on Batman.  I attended a horror film convention a few years ago, and met the guy who’s distribution company holds the rights to the Puppetmaster series.

In all those conventions, I’ve seen all the usual attractions.  I’ve seen the cosplayers posing for photos.  I’ve seen the guys show off their remote control R2D2s, and in more recent years, remote controlled BB8s.  I have an autograph book that, while not exactly filled from cover to cover, has some names you might recognize if you like American voice actors, and obscure film stars.  I even contributed suggestions for an anime themed improv group’s “suggestions in a hat” game once or twice.

In other words, I’m not a stranger to this sort of thing.

However, I’ve never been to ConQuesT before.  Not until this past weekend, anyway.

I went with a couple friends, not entirely sure what to expect.  Right out the gate, they had to help everybody’s favorite professional blind guy find the RIGHT convention, because apparently, the hotel hosting ConQuesT was ALSO hosting a tattoo convention on the other side of the building.  And if you’re wondering at all, yes, there actually was a surprising amount of overlap between the conventions.

Honestly, as far as atmosphere went…  It was pretty quiet.  I did see some folks in costume, but compared to the madness of your average comic book, anime, horror film, and whatever convention, things were pretty tame.

In large part, this is because ConQuesT is more dedicated to scifi and fantasy literature than anything else.  Book people are definitely as proud, but maybe not quite as loud as some of the other fandoms out there.  Also, with a lot of books not having pictures or film/TV adaptations, cosplayers most likely have to use their imagination.  At absolute most, I saw someone with a very intricate raptor costume, and someone…  I wanted to say the polar bear from The Golden Compass, but that was mostly because one of my friends described them as big, white, and furry, and polar bears are the first thing that come to mind when I hear that description.  It would’ve been hilarious if that polar bear was drinking a Coke.  Just sayin’.

Of course, the main event of any convention is the panels.  Unlike a lot of your usual panels, though, there aren’t a whole lot of Q&A with guests.  Rather, the guests usually have a lecture prepared, or the staff had an event planned out featuring them that might or might not have been a good idea in practice.

And of course, in my attempts to become a better shameless publicity whore, I handed out cards to everybody who’d take them.  And left what I wasn’t able to hand off on some table in the lobby for guests to pick up.  Or for housekeeping to throw away.  The important thing is I got rid of them.

I attended Steven Barnes’ panel on Afrofuturism: a subgenre of scifi and fantasy focused primarily on black individuals and their rolls in society and culture.  I have to say, I wasn’t expecting it to be such a powerful presentation.  Even if there was a mix up over whether his room got the whiteboard or not.  Once we actually got in to the nitty gritty, this was the kind of lecture that, at the end, left me nigh speechless.  I suddenly felt a little bad about having never read any of his books prior to attending.

I got to meet him afterward…  And found I had nothing to say.  I ended up shaking his hand, handing him my business card…  Then, three days later, I realized I just pointed the man who’s a driving force in afrofuturism fiction to MY work.  MY work includes The Gael Saga.  Within Gael’s rogues gallery is CharKendrick Parks: AKA, Spook.  Spook…  Well…  Let’s just say Spook is probably not going to win me any awards in political correctness any time soon.  No, I didn’t exactly hand the character a bucket of KFC and tell him to go play basketball while he and his homies listen to Gucci Gang or anything horrible like that.  However, if you’ve read The Hood and the Heroine, and read the chapters Spook narrates…  Yeah, the rules of political correctness dictate I’m probably going to hell.  And I only made it worse by possibly directing a guy trying to make a positive name for Black America without using hashtags like #BlackLivesMatter in that direction.  Shit.  Oh well, wouldn’t be the first time I accidentally burned a bridge.

Another panel at ConQuesT I absolutely adored was “Author Speed Dating”.  The premise is simple: there’s eight authors, and eight readers.  Each reader pairs off with an author, and the author tries to sell you their book.  This, right here, is an awesome idea on paper, and it did not disappoint in practice.

True, some authors were better at selling me on their fiction than others.  Sean Demory and Van Plexico were definitely my favorites, advertising such works as Polukaville, and The Sentinal trilogies respectively.

There was another author I met who’s book intrigued me, who’s condition intrigued me MORE, and…  Unfortunately, I forgot her name.  I’m SORRY!  I just remembered offering to shake her hand, and she explained she had a nerve condition that resulted in tremendous pain if someone touched her.  Even wearing clothing apparently hurt.  I can’t remember her name, and I can’t remember the name of her condition, and after pulling up a tab that had all the ConQuesT guests, I’m unfortunately not recalling anything.  Although I’M DEFINITELY positive it wasn’t Dora Furlong.  I think Furlong wrote the Monster Keeper series, as well as the Olympus Talent Agency series.  Both of which sound fascinating as well.

I did go to other panels…  But if I’m being honest, those ended up being a bit more meh than I was expecting.  They weren’t bad by any means…  But I wasn’t really feeling them at the end of the day, either, you know?

I only hung out for Saturday’s festivities due to only having enough money for one day, friends wanting to get together on Sunday, and Monday being my day to sleep in, get some writing done, then forgetting I’m a Baha’i for a split second and getting piss drunk stupid while watching The Stanley Cup with family.

SEMI RELATED NOTE: GO VEGAS!  FUCK THE CAPS!

I thoroughly enjoyed my time at ConQuesT.  Maybe next year, I can actually register as a guest.  It’d be fun to try the author speed dating on the author’s side.  Maybe sharpen up my sellsman skills in my quest to become a better publicity whore.

Noir: My Thoughts

Christopher Moore is one of my all time favorite authors.  I started with A Dirty Job, then read all three of the Bloodsucking Fiends trilogy, and pretty much set out to read as many of his books as I could possibly get my hands on.

Admittedly, Moore is…  Not for everybody.  Especially in recent years, with stories like Sacre Blue, and Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff.  These are pretty avant gard, considering the guy had made a living telling humorous stories about either a fictional town out in the middle of nowhere, or in a fictional San Fransisco that reminds me of Kevin Smith’s Jerseyverse.  Or Askewniverse.  Or whatever we’re calling the Jay and Silent Bob movies nowadays.  The Jay-And-Silent-Bobiverse?

Also, if nothing came from the 2010s, my fascination with film noir happened in this very decade.  All you bitches feeling nostalgic for the neon-colored nightmare of shoulder pads, toy commercial cartoons, and Reaganomics don’t know nothing about nostalgia.  I was going back to the days when movies weren’t even in color!  I was going back to the days communism actually seemed like a legit threat to anybody!  I was going back to the day when a high budget movie was around six figures at absolute most!  You want to talk nostalgic?  You don’t know.

I forgot where I was going with this.

Oh right, Christopher Moore wrote a noir book!  My favorite author?  Writing one of my recent favorite genres?  I literally commented on his blog: “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!”.  No really.  Look for the sample chapter for Noir on his blog (if it’s still there).  You’ll find my comment right there!

ANYWAY…

I really had high hopes for this book.  And…  Not going to lie…  It’s not one of his better books.  Yeah, I’m starting to think I might have jumped the gun on that one.  It’s fucking No Man’s Sky all over again.

It’s not a bad story by any means.  Comedy wise, “the kid” was probably the funniest thing about the entire story.  I mean yeah, the fact the main female character is named after a variety of British cheese is KINDA funny I guess, but a lot of the humor…  I don’t really want to say it fell flat, but considering I read Christopher Moore books frequently, I’m kind of familiar with his pacing, and his style of joke telling.  It’s like watching a new episode of a long-running sitcom that hasn’t managed to hit seasonal rot yet: the jokes are there, and you know they’re funny, but they aren’t really gut-busting hilarious.

The very beginning of the book is basically a fucking trigger warning to all the delicate little snowflakes out there that this book takes place in the 1940s, and therefore may use some slurs that were acceptable then, but aren’t now.  Although I got to say, I was expecting a lot worse than what I got.  Sure, he used the word “colored” a few times, and a few slurs for Chinese people.  I don’t know, maybe having friends who masterbate to Trump and praise “the glory of Kekistan” have desensitised me to the point I feel nothing anymore when I hear racist remarks.  Or maybe I don’t offend nearly as easily as this current generation of weak-willed pussies.  I’ll honestly believe either one.

Get past the trigger warning, and you get a story that is…  Okay.

Really, my only real gripe with the book is that there’s two narrators, and the second narrator waits till way into the book to introduce himself.  The epic reveal…  Honestly, I can’t decide if it’s funny, or dumb.  Possibly both, but maybe leaning more towards dumb.  It’s one of those choices that, on paper, probably sounded funnier.  And at the moment of the reveal, it DID kinda give me a chuckle.  But prior to the reveal, I found myself constantly wondering why it went from first person to third person every other chapter.

The audiobook is read by Johnny Heller.  Heller is a man of about two or three voices at absolute best, and they all have a bit of a Marlon Brando quality to them.  However, it’s a reader that fits the theme of the book just fine, so I give it a pass.

Overall, it’s not the worst book I’ve ever read.  It’s not even the worst Christopher Moore book I’ve ever read.  Really, though, I’d recommend some of his other titles before recommending this one.

The Philosopher’s Flight: My Thoughts

The Philosopher’s Flight is a book I really wasn’t expecting to like.  Or even read, honestly.  It got recommended at the book club I’m a member of, in rather hilarious fashion.

Basically, we discussed the book of the month (The City and the City by the HIGHLY over-rated China Mieville).  Then, talk of what to read next came up.  A woman who comes to the group off and on picked two books out of her purse, slapped them down on the table, and said: “Here’s your choices.  Pick one.  I’m not running out and buying a third book.  Pick one.”  I laughed, and went with the side that picked Philosopher’s Flight on the grounds option B was a clichéd young adult dystopia novel that lost me at the blurb describing the overused, overdone premise every young adult novel throughout the 2010s has used.

So we read The Philosopher’s Flight, and I got to say, I liked it a lot.

Robert is a young man, living in a world where “philosophy” actually refers to magic.  Also, magic seems to come more naturally for women than it does for men, although a few men can perform magic as well.  Like Robert, for example.  Magic, or “philosophy”, consists of being able to draw sigils with certain ingredients, and through the power of magic (I guess), stuff happens according to what sigil you drew, and what you drew it with.  IE, aluminum results in teleportation, silver results in stasis, corn powder (I think) results in flight…  They allude to a combination of sulphur and bonemeal that makes a really nasty death spell, but it never gets used.

Robert wants to join the rescue squad, and serve his country in World War I.  However, because most men can’t perform magic as effortlessly, or at all, it’s an uphill battle just getting through the academy.  The person recommending this book for the club suggested that it was an inverse to the whole “strong independent woman who’s strong and independent and a woman proving to the men how strong and independent this woman is.  Did we mention this is a woman who’s strong and independent?  Because it’s super important you note that this is a strong independent woman.” fad we’ve been stuck in for the last three or four years now by basically giving the WOMEN the power, and making the MAN prove himself.  Admittedly, I assumed the women were going to have more influence in this world than they had.  IE, I thought they’d hold the majority of political power, cultural influence, and men were treated like objects who cooked and cleaned and all that.  While women in this universe are more adept at “philosophy”, they still don’t have a whole lot of influence outside “philosophy” circles.

Also, did you know that in the old days, a woman could run for office, but couldn’t vote?  According to the resident SJW of the club, yeah, that was actually a thing.  They brought it up in this book, but I thought it was just part of their universe, but it’s actually a thing!  Weird, right?

Getting back on track…

This book is definitely a departure from the kind of things I read.  IE, not a whole lot of fight scenes, and not a whole lot of magic and mysticism outside “philosophy”.  And I’m okay with that.

A common criticism the story seems to get is that it tries to tackle several themes, and only really resolves one or two.  A lot of this gets attributed to the fact that this is Tom Miller’s first book, and perhaps he’s still trying to figure things out.  I personally attribute it to the fact that Robert is really your classic case of a country boy in the city.  A lot of these themes get brought up as environmental factors, but the primary focus of the story is definitely that Robert is just trying to get through the academy, and live out his life long dream of working in rescue and evac for the U.S. military.

The audiobook is read by Gibson Frazier.  He does a really good job with the material he’s given, although it’s kind of hilarious to hear a guy give the cliché dum jock voice to female characters on occasion.  I guess in this universe, women have to take up roles like captain of the sportsball team, so I guess they can be dumb jocks just as much as…  You know, I’m thinking too hard about this.

I’ve heard through the grapevine that this is book 1 of a series.  A series that, as of this writing, is still in the works.  Honestly, as much as I enjoyed this book, I’m hesitant to read any further in this series .  The book ended pretty conclusively in my opinion.  I mean yeah, they could probably elaborate on the very specific details of what went on during the montage that was the last three or four paragraphs…  Also, the prologue.

I forgot entirely about the prologue until the book club got together.  And understandably so.  The prologue contributes literally NOTHING to the plot of this book.  I GUESS it provides a little context on how “philosophy” works, but it’s nothing you couldn’t pick up for yourself actually reading through the story proper.  Nothing that’s ever brought up in the prologue EVER shows up in the story.  So much so, I wonder why the hell the author even bothered.  Outside the possibility of page count, but I figured that’s why he included a glossary of terms that you’ve probably long since figured out by ACTUALLY READING THE BOOK.

Some writing advice I’ve gotten over the years is this: never start with a prologue.  Don’t start the story in the middle, and flash back to three weeks earlier.  Don’t use a prologue as a foreshadowing tool for something that happens in book 2 or book 3.  In fact, just don’t do the prologue.  Ever.  Start the story at chapter 1, and go from there.

The Philosopher’s Flight could’ve probably benefitted from this advice.  Lord knows I don’t do prologues anymore for this very reason.

One thing Miller and I are BOTH guilty of, though, is beginning chapters with quotes that foreshadow future events in the chapter.  This is one of those things where in it works if it’s done properly.  Unfortunately, I don’t feel like it was done properly in Miller’s book.  For example, he shares a passage from Danielle’s campaign speech from all the way into the 1930s: at least fifteen or twenty years after the story takes place.  Then we have an epic final battle between Robert, Danielle, and the villain of the book (a dude who totally gives me Fred Phelps vibes), and I felt virtually NO ergency.  Bitch, I already know Danielle survives!  And as a result, it kind of kills the suspense.

These are some nitpicks I had with the book, but despite those nitpicks, I actually really liked the story quite a bit.  Will I check out future books in the series?  Well…  We’ll see.  For what it’s worth, book 1 was definitely not a bad read.

 

NEW PROJECT: The Highway Men

Technically, I began this project yesterday, but one chapter later, I decided to announce I was working on it here, and I’ll eventually announce it on my Facebook when I’m done here.

The Highway Men is a project I’ve been sitting on since I was working on Lifers Wear Orange: Book 2 of The Gael Saga.  If I weren’t so dedicated to getting that project finished, I probably would’ve left Gael at one book, and started this as a series.

The Highway Men is more familiar territory for me personally.  A blend of action, adventure, Lovecraftian horror, and a few good old fashion references to/digs at rural Kansas culture that I have beheld, or heard tale of years later.  Because sometimes, it’s just too hard to resist.  Relax: there won’t be any politics this time.  I got a lot of that out of my system with The Majin Among Us, and maybe the last Novella of Highfill, Kansas.

I currently have the series name for sure: The Highway Men.  I don’t have a title for book 1 just yet, although I’m leaning towards several possibilities:

 

A. Dismal Dan the Highway Man

B. The Realms of Attrocity.

C. Grandfather’s Interdimensional Nexus of Unimaginable Horrors.

D. Realm/Domain/Dimension/City of The War Pigs

E. The War Pig Experiment.

F. The Horrors of Nevel, Kansas

G. The Chalk Doorways

 

If you see a slash, it’s because I figured words like REALM and DIMENSION are pretty interchangeable at this stage.

It’s hard to talk about titles without getting into spoilers.  Still, I’ll give you this much info about my latest novel here.

Dan Helwig, AKA: Dismal Dan, is the leader of a troop of demon hunters affiliated with a multinational network known as The Highway Men.  They travel around the highways, the enterstates, and other places most wouldn’t think to find demonic activity, because this is precisely where demonic activity ends up taking place.

Nevel, Kansas is YET ANOTHER fictional town in Rural Kansas I made up that, while not technically a real town, is based heavily on real places I know of, and have lived in.

The “war pigs” are, if nothing else, the primary antagonists of this novel.  They might appear in future novels, based on my blueprint, but right now, nothing is concrete.

If I say anything else, I’ll probably give away the plot.  And right now, things are subject to change.

Right now, I haven’t decided on a title.  Though seeing all my choices laid out before me right here, I’m thinking for sure that A and C are definitely out.  However, I’m always up for a second opinion.

If you see a title here you like, be sure to say something in the comments, and I’ll take your opinion into consideration.  Otherwise, I’ll probably choose one I like the most.  Or even pick one that has nothing to do with any of the titles I’ve listed.

I don’t have a speculative release date for this project just yet, but I’ll gladly let you all know when I actually have a time table in place.  Till then, stay tuned for more news regarding this new and exciting project.

End of an Era

Earlier this month, Scourged: the last of The Iron Druid Chronicles, was put out.  I bought it, I blazed through it in a week, and now I sit here realizing that the epic fantasy I’ve been reading since 2015 is over.  And boy, I have no idea how to feel about that.

All good things have to come to an end.  Frankly, the fact there hasn’t been a single bad book in the entire nine book series says a lot about how good at this writing thing Kevin Hearne actually is.  When the series started, it came out in a time where the whole “vampires, werewolves, and mythical creatures live among us and I keep them all in check” concept Anita Blake brought to the table was starting to become tiresome.  And really, one could argue that Anita Blake wasn’t even all that original in the first place.  So the fact Atticus O’Sullivan was ON THE RUN as opposed to being god’s chosen champion, or a member of an elite hunter squad, or whatever, was actually kind of a refreshing change of pace.  Also, who could say no to Oberon?  I don’t think myself as a dog person or as a cat person exclusively (I will punch you in the fucking face if you call me bipetual), but having had a dog of my own, I can tell you Hearne’s portrayal is definitely very accurate.  True, my dog wasn’t an Irish wolf hound, but really, dogs are dogs in the longrun: happy, slobbery, manic idiots who absolutely love you.

I’ll admit to not reading the novellas, though.  I basically stuck to the canonical books in the series.  Largely because, for the most part, the side novellas don’t really add anything TOO substancial to the overall plot.  At least, not until the book I refer to as “book 8.5.1 and 8.5.2”, but even then, the only thing those books explain is how Atticus ended up with a Boston terrier named Starbuck.

In the span of three years, I practically devoured all nine of The iron Druid Chronicles novels, and I enjoyed the journey from start to finish.

As per usual, I went with the audiobooks, because blind guy.  All of the books are read by the man, the myth, the legend himself, Luke Motherfucking Daniels.  In fact, I dare say, The iron Druid Chronicles were my first real exposure to him as a reader.  And ever since, Daniels has joined the likes of Simon Vance, Robertson Dean, and Mark Vitor: readers who make me loudly declare “SHUT UP AND TAKE MY MONEY!” the moment I see their name on the Audible.com page.  I was even subscribed to his Soundcloud page at one point, before I ended up deleting that soundcloud account in exchange for the one currently hosting Red Flannel Radio.  I should really do another one of those.  Seems like that’s been reduced to a monthly show now.

But I digress.

The series has ended.  I feel complete in a way, but at the same time, I feel kind of bummed out.  Well, maybe BUMMED is a bit of an exaggeration, but I definitely have that “end of an era, and I have no idea where to go from here” kind of feeling.  This feeling will pass in a couple days (it always does), but I really can’t remember the last time I’ve been bummed out about there being no new stories in the series.  Usually, by the time a series gets to book 4, I’m starting to notice problems, tedium, and even continuity errors in one case.

I highly recommend reading the series for yourself if you haven’t.  In the meantime, maybe I’ll be able to find the next great ongoing series to invest all my psychotic fan devotion to.

new Novella of Highfill, Kansas?

Often times, I have referred to The Novellas of Highfill, Kansas as some variant or another on the term “a writing project I thoroughly regret publishing.”  While the review sections on Amazon, and all the places I submitted them to for reviews have been a regular ghostopolis (IE, dead silent), a couple of readers have insisted I’m too hard on myself.  Well, I suppose the important thing is THEY like what they read.  Lord knows two years later, I don’t like them.

All that being said, I’ve been open to the idea of writing more of them.  The only real guarantee I’ve made in the past is that Jodi LaVey and her wife won’t be the main characters, or really any part of future novels.  Jodi’s story is told, and there’s not much else I can do with it.

I’m really more interested in expanding on the setting, the mindset, the culture…  Or really, just providing Highfill as a setting for miscellaneous novellas that have nothing but the setting in common.  In fact, the only reason The Majin Among Us ended up not being a Novella of Highfill, Kansas was due to its supernatural fantasy elements.  So I had to forge a similar town with Redcrest, and make it a whole separate entity.

I’ve had scribbles of ideas in the old internal scribblepad for other Highfill, Kansas stories.

The oldest of the scribbles was a story under the title of Election.  Gwen LaVey was featured as one of the three narrators who told the story of a democrat’s effort to run for mayor of Highfill against a republican candidate so corrupt that Donald Trump looks like the fucking pope by comparison.  Despite his corruption, though, he’s still the popular candidate on the grounds that, while he’s a misogynist, a racist, an incompetent boob, and a spoiled brat with no social skills, at least he’s not a democrat.  I eventually abandoned it on the grounds it’s basically a fictionalized account of either the 2016 presidential election, or the 2014 governor’s race here in Kansas.  Really, take your pick.  I haven’t deleted the idea, but I don’t plan on writing this one any time soon.

Another idea I’d had sitting around was simply titled Boxmart.  I hadn’t really built much around the story beyond the fact it was set primarily at a big box store creatively named Boxmart, and that Jodi would make a cameo.  This one probably needs more work.

Another idea I had was for a story called Court Case.  Gwen would be featured prominently, but she wouldn’t be any of the three narrators.  I had the beginning, and the ending mapped out… But no middle.  I may tweek this one a little in the future.

However, the most recent of the scribblings is what I ended up picking as my next writing project.

The story is officially titled Sarah’s Phone.  It’s set in Highfill, Kansas, and possesses a healthy dose of the backward dark that made the first two what they are.  However, as I promised before, it has nothing to do with the LaVey family in the slightest.  Also, at the rate things are going, it’s looking like there is only one narrator.  At least in the traditional sense of what makes a narrator, anyway.  If and when I finish this story idea, you’ll see what I mean.

I have no time table for when Sarah’s Phone: A Novella of Highfill, Kansas will be available for purchase, but if it’s anything like the first two, it shouldn’t be especially long.

I’ll be sure to keep ou updated, either her, or on my Facebook, on progress.  All I can guarantee out the gate is that knowing my luck, I’ll probably end up hating it like I hate the other Novellas of Highfill, Kansas a year, or even six months later.  For now, though, I’m interested in seeing where this idea takes me.

The Majin Among Us Sample Chapter!

I’ve expressed concerns of being an incompetent, Marvel Comics caliber social justice warrior a week or so ago, and I ended up with some…  Interesting, feedback on the matter.  In the longrun, I guess the only way to truly find out is to just put it out there, and let the people decide.

As of this writing, I’m on the verge of finishing the second draft.  there’s at least two or three more drafts that need to happen before this gets released to the public, but I’m feeling pretty confident about getting this in around the beginning of February.  In fact, let’s just make it official: I’m aiming for 2/11/17 for a release date.  Set your calendar apps to that date, and when you don’t see it on Amazon, check back here for a possible explanation.  Or just bitch me out.

In the meantime, I hope this sample chapter suffices.

DISCLAIMER!: This is the second draft version of the chapter.  If there are some noticeable errors, it’s because I may have missed them in my initial proofreading.  With luck, I, or my spellchecker will catch them in future drafts.

 

Also, as is the case with sample chapters, this version of the chapter might not be the version you end up getting.  Until the final version becomes available, though, I hope you enjoy.

 

 

THE MAJIN AMONG US

COPYRIGHT 2018 BY THOMAS J. BLACK

 

 

8

 

 

I thought for sure I was going to have to play detective that day. I dreaded this, because back in those days, I was never especially good at detective work. Sure, Redcrest was pretty tiny, but there were still a pretty considerable amount of nooks and crannies she and her family could’ve been hiding in that I’d have never thought of looking.

So it was probably a good thing that I didn’t actually have to do any of that detective work. I don’t know how, exactly, but somehow, Debbie was able to find where I lived! All I know was that there was a knock at the door, and Debbie was standing on the other side when my mom answered it. Next thing I know, we’re taking my car to her place.

It turned out that she lived clear on the other side of Redcrest. Specifically, the bad part of Redcrest. The part Joe Jack’s dad lived. The part where all the meth heads from neighboring towns go to buy their product. The part of town all the adults warn us about.

“You live out here?” I asked. Considering this was the same girl who could turn people into chocolate on a whim, this shouldn’t have been as shocking. And yet, here we were.

“Yeah,” said Debbie. “My parents aren’t exactly the wealthiest people on the planet. Especially not these days.”

“What happened?” I asked.

Rather than answer my question there, she pointed to a house further up. “That’s my place,” she said.

In terms of houses in bad neighborhoods, you really could’ve done worse than Debbie’s place. You could do better, for sure, but you could’ve done worse. The outside could’ve probably used a new coat of paint, and the lawn definitely saw better days, but none of the windows were broken, and there weren’t any toilets or washing machines in the front lawn. More than I could say for a couple of her neighbors.

The inside smelled like cat piss. Debbie’s family clearly didn’t own any cats, or really any pets at all for that matter. I’m guessing that was left over from the people who used to live here? The carpet was a dull dark grayish color, and the furnature was clearly thrift store furnature. The couch had a pretty generous amount of cushioning torn out of one of the arm rests, and one of the chairs looked like someone fatter than the chair could handle sat in it.

Debbie gestured for me to have a seat on the couch. Rather than join me, she chose to take a seat a foot or two away from me on the floor. She looked me from down their, and I looked at her from up where I was.

“Okay,” she said. “Let’s just get down to it. I find that in situations like this, it’s just easier to get all the awkward questions out of the way right here and now. I’m sure you have plenty of questions, and I probably have answers. So go ahead, ask me anything.”

I thought about it for all of three seconds. “What the hell!?” I exclaimed.

Debbie laughed a little. “Okay, maybe broaden it a little more than that.”

“You ate chad!” I exclaimed.

“Are we really still dwelling on this?”

“Um, yeah, we are!”

Debbie started to sigh in frustration… But halfway in, she seemed to come to a revelation.

“Wait a minute,” she said. “You didn’t want to eat him by chance, did you? I’m so sorry!”

“What?” Was all I could say in response to that.

“I really should’ve taken your pride into consideration,” she said. I thought for a split second she might’ve been mocking me, but all it took was a look at her face to see she genuinely meant what she was saying. “I mean the guy was clearly beating you up and everything. It probably would’ve satisfied your pride if you’d been the one to eat him. Plus it’d be pretty ironic. He always did want to be inside another man, after all. What better…”

That’s not even close!” I interrupted, maybe a little louder than I would’ve liked.

Debbie blinked. “Huh. Okay, what’s the deal?”

“Debbie, you took someone’s life!”

“And?”

“What the hell do you mean and?”

Debbie snapped her fingers, coming to another realization. “Oh, right! You’re a human. I can’t believe I keep forgetting that.”

I blinked. “What?”

Debbie stood up then. “Maybe it would help if I dispelled my glamour.”

“Glamour?”

She bowed her head, and closed her eyes. Then, to my absolute shock, she began to change! Admittedly, her appearance didn’t change all that much. However, it was enough to surprise me.

Her skin went from pretty standard Caucasian to cotton candy pink. She opened her eyes, and revealed that they were now the color of blood. Her hair remained in the same style it had been before, but now it was a very dark blue. On the sides of her head were little nubs that looked like they were trying to be horns, but were too short.

“Whew,” she said, “that feels good. Glamours are so hard to maintain, you know? Wait, you probably don’t know.”

“Whah… I… What are you?” I stammered out, astonished.

Debbie took a seat on the floor once again. “I’m a majin,” she explained. “My whole family are majins.”

I vaguely remembered her mentioning majins that one time, and it became clear her dumb little joke that only mythology buffs would probably find funny wasn’t a joke after all. She really was a majin in human clothes.

Unfortunately, rather than answering any of my questions, it only raised more.

“I think I explained what majin are,” said Debbie, trying to fill the awkward silence.

“Yeah,” I replied. “Apparently, they’re pink devils who can turn people into chocolate, and have no problem with eating them right afterward.”

“I didn’t want to use my powers on him,” Debbie protested. “I hated seeing him and his friends bully you around like that. And believe me, you’re far from the first person he’s harassed.”

“Oh you don’t have to tell me. I already know that guy was a douche. Everybody did. But eating him? Couldn’t you have just used your little jedi mind trick on him like you did with his friends?”

Debbie blushed… I think. The color scheme was not something I was used to, but it definitely looked like she was blushing then.

“I suppose I was thinking with my stomach again,” she said. “I knew I should’ve gotten some snacks at the theater.”

“Uh… Okay then. I’m guessing that’s a majin thing?”

“Kind of. For sure, it’s a Debbie thing. Majin in general are pretty hedonistic.”

“Hedo-what?”

“Hedenistic. It means do whatever because it feels good, and to hell with the consequences. On the positive side, that just means a lot of us like food. Or sleep. Or… Um, “other pleasures”.”

It didn’t take me long to figure out what that meant.

“I suppose that’s the problem when you’re an all-powerful godlike being who lives for flippin’ ever,” she continued. “We tend to think of humans the same way humans think of cows or chickens. Or more positively, we tend to think of you the same way you think of cats and dogs.”

“So we’re either food, or we’re pets,” I clarified.

“At worst, I’d say food. At best, I’d say you’re just another animal we have to share the planet with. Nothing personal. It’s just that majins have to eat too. And like I said last night, nobody’s going to miss that douche.”

“His parents are going to miss him. His friends are going to miss him. And even if nobody ends up missing him, people are going to notice he’s gone. Redcrest isn’t that big a town. Somebody goes missing, you usually hear all about it. Not to mention that guy was the star quarterback.”

“Oh, woopy for him. He can throw a ball, so we should put him on a pedistol and treat him like a god.”

I couldn’t say I disagreed with that. People around Redcrest worshipped Chad Testaberger. It was a popular joke around Draiman High that they held him back twice so he could get the football team to state. The other kids looked at him as someone to respect. The adults looked at him like he was somehow going to make them rich. In the case of people like Pat’s dad, he probably was.

The sad part is as disgusting as this was, it wasn’t, and actually still isn’t exclusive to Redcrest. We treat football players in this entire country better than our teachers, our emergency service workers… Really, better than everybody. And why? Because they can throw a ball really far? Because they can get tackled by a three-hundred pound lummox with an additional fifty pounds of padding?

They’re certainly not good people. I swear to god, there was at least one player a week getting a D.U.I. or a drug charge. And that was the standard nonsense. If you wanted the really bad stuff, you need only look at guys like Ray Louis, or Hector Hernandez: men who were charged with, and possibly even got away with murder. Although I think Hernandez eventually got caught, but I digress.

The fact football players, be they big time NFL players, or small time high school flunkouts in the making like Chad, are worshipped like gods is definitely something Debbie and I could see eye to eye on. Unfortunately, it was straying from the point entirely. Even if Chad was a douche, a closet case, and frankly, an individual the world would be better off without, Debbie had still opened pandora’s box on this one.

She was in the middle of a rant that, in short, was exactly what I was saying just now. However, she chose to end the rant with, “You want to see a god? A little majin like me is the closest thing you’re going to get.”

I chuckled. “If you’re so godlike,” I countered, “why do you and your parents live in such a dump? Surely, you could use your magic to counterfit money and buy a nice house out in the good part of town.”

“Because we’re trying to lay low,” said Debbie. “And in any case, that’d be a vulgar display of power.”

“Sort of like Jesus refusing to perform miracles on the spot?”

“Well yeah, in concept. My grandpa insists Jesus was either a very opinionated street preacher, or the head of one of history’s most successful cults.”

“Cult?”

“Well yeah. The only real difference between a cult and a religion is the difference between a membership in the dozens and a membership in the millions. We’re kind of getting off track here, though. Basically, I don’t see what the big deal is with you humans and football. Hell, it’s not even football! It’s not in the shape of a ball, and the only real footwork is in how far you can run.”

“Well… Okay. You’re more than welcome to have that opinion, but it still doesn’t change the fact people are going to notice Chad is gone now. And if they figure out there’s a pink devil girl around here with the power to turn people into chocolate…”

“Not my problem.”

I was at a loss for words then.

Debbie laughed. “Honey, if humans could kill us with anything less than a nuclear bomb, there’d be significantly fewer majins in the world.”

I sighed in frustration, which led her to laugh at me.

“Relax,” she said. “I’m not going to pick a fight with the entire human race. All I want to do is live my life, and enjoy the ride.like you. The only difference is we live a lot longer than you.”

“Really?” I asked. “Like, how long?”

“Well, that depends on the majin, really. My grandpa was somewhere around a couple thousand before he finally passed.”

THOUSAND!?

Debbie laughed again. “It is way too easy to blow your minds, you know? But yeah, thousand.”

“Okay, uh, I know I’m not supposed to ask a lady this, but how old are you?”

“I’ll be a hundred and ninety-eight in December. I’m guessing that whole “never ask a lady how old she is” thing is a human taboo? Probably because you guys only ever live to be seventy or eighty on average.”

“I… Uh, I guess so. I always thought it was a girl taboo more than a human taboo.”

Girl taboo, huh? Majins don’t have a whole lot of those compared to humans. I mean we have similar ones to humans, like “Thou shalt not kill”, “Honor thy mother and thy father”, and so on, but the only real taboo I can think of we don’t have in common is “thou shalt not use thy magic on thy fellow majin”.”

“Um, I’m pretty sure you’re thinking of commandments there.”

“Eh, six in one, half a dozen in the other. The important thing is majin are discouraged from using magic on each other. Which… Sort of brings us to Scott.”

“Yeah, who is this Scott anyway?”

Debbie was about to explain, but then the front door came open. A woman with a similar Buddha belly shape, and brown hair to Debbie came in first. She was followed by a skinny looking man wearing overalls, a trucker hat, and sporting a thick black handlebar mustache. Someone was clearly trying way too hard to appear Midwestern. He looked like how one of those douches in San Fransisco thought us Midwestern folk looked. The woman had a better concept, if only because she didn’t really where anything that screamed “YOU’RE TRYING TOO HARD!” to anyone who looked her way.

Lastly, there came what had to be the fattest man I think I’d ever seen. If he were any fatter, he’d probably need one of those scooters those fat city people ride around on when they go to Walmart.

“That was a good walk,” said the woman.

“Brad like walk!” the fat one declared, clapping.

“You sure did,” said the woman. “Now head up to your room, and…”

“Debbie!” the man interrupted. “What are you doing out of your disguise!?”

Debbie was already on her feet by then. She handled herself calmly… Sort of.

“You really went out into town like that?” she asked, pointing at her dad’s overalls.

“Debbie, we have to be glamoured, remember?” her dad insisted.

“But dressed like that?” Debbie countered. “I keep telling you guys that nobody here dresses like that. You look like a couple of damn Beverly Hillbillies!

“fair point,” the woman interrupted before the man could say something, “but you still need to look human if you’re going to socialize with these things.”

“It’s okay,” said Debbie, calming down. “He already knows what we are. Kind of.”

She explained that I had unfortunately seen her use magic. She bent the truth just a little, implying both of us were backed into a corner and left with no alternative. She made it sound like Chad and his goon squad were going to kill us! At absolute most, he’d probably just shove me around like he had been doing for a while longer, make a few more gay jokes only Joe Jack thought were funny, and call it an evening. Debbie could’ve probably gone home right then and there, and they wouldn’t have even noticed she was gone.

The father sighed, and his glamour faded. I soon learned the mustache was fake as he pealed it off. Debbie’s mom unglamoured next, revealing she had the same dark blue hair as her daughter. Brad, the fat one, seemed confused.

“Mom said Brad need be human in front of humans,” he said, puzzled.

“Your sister already blew our cover,” his dad explained. “You can unglamour yourself in front of this…”

“Okay!” said Brad, way too inthusiastically.

With that, Brad’s glamour faded. Rather than two nubby little horns on the sides of his head like Debbie and her mom, he had one long horn protruding out of his forehead. It made him look like a unicorn trapped in a human-shaped bubblegum mold, honestly.

Debbie’s dad removed the trucker hat, and a unicorn horn of his own popped out of his forehead with a faint pop noise.

“Go to your room, Brad,” Debbie’s mom ordered. “We need to have a talk with your sister.”

“Okay!” said Brad.

Gleefully, Brad went barreling past his sister and me, and down the hallway to his room. It was just the four of us then. I wasn’t sure of anything at that point, but I couldn’t help but think that nothing good was going to come of this.

 

 

SJW Concerns

The Majin Among Us is my latest writing project I plan to get published.  It’s pretty much guaranteed to be getting a paperback release at this time, so good news for all you people who prefer paper to ebook.

The further I get in to this project, though, the more one particular worry hits me.  That concern is that my book immediately gets dismissed as social justice tripe.  I’ll be posting a sample chapter within the week, but for now, take my word on it when I say that this thing may be a little preachy.

Make no mistake, I’m a lefty at heart.  True, I abandoned the democrats completely in 2016 after the stunt they pulled, and I’ve spoken highly of various aspects of libertarian ideaology, but in my heart of hearts, I’m still a lefty in many aspects.  I believe gays should be allowed to get married.  I believe abortion should be legal.  I believe net neutrality should’ve never been repealed.  I believe marijuana should be legal for recreational use, although I’d settle for medicinal if that’s how we have to start out.  I believe if someone wants to mutilate the shit out of their body in order to resemble a woman, why not?  Really, the only things I DON’T agree with my fellow lefties on is gun control (I’m pro-constitutional carry), and the death penalty (hang ’em all!), but that’s pretty much it.

Then we get into the kind of nonsense that passes for modern day liberalism: a horrifying checklist ideaology known as neoliberalism, or social justice warrioring.  I may think of myself as a liberal, but jesus tap dancing Christ, the SJW crowd makes me feel legitimately embarrassed to admit out loud that I vote democrat in public.

I could go on, but many other classical liberals have probably made all the points I’d probably be making.  Furthermore, they probably did it more intelligently, and with fewer swear words, because I’m a rude-ass boogan with no shame in using me some colorful language.

This is a crowd I generally want to distance myself from…  Except looking over the rough draft for The Majin Among Us, and making all the edits and additions I feel needed adding, I fear this book may come off as social justice tripe: the very thing I’m NOT going for.

The Majin Among Us is a tail of xenophobia.  A majin and her family find that their cover has been blown by the worst representation of their race: a cannibalistic serial killer with no concepts of restraint, social skills, or diplomacy.  The people take one look at this horrible majin and his wicked ways, and like people are prone to doing, they immediately assume EVERY majin is wicked, unspeakable evil.  From there, it’s a combination of trying to mend the bridge while keeping the guy who ruined it for everyone as far away as possible.

Pretty SJW-ish, right?  Honestly, I’ve based the story on all the stories I’ve heard of retards beating hindus and Sikhs to let us all know Muslams ain’t welcome in Amrrrica.  Or like the local dumbass who lost the mayoral election after running under the most blatant anticimetic platform…  Probably in the history of Kansas for all I know and care, then went on a shooting spree with all the intention of killing as many jews as possible…  Only to end up missing all the jews, and killing a couple Methodist Christians instead.  There are several examples of this caliber of retardation, and I could probably fill an entire blog with nothing but those stories alone.  However, I instead decided to draw influence from those stories when describing the level of ignorance displayed.

Unfortunately, one can’t write a story about racism in this day and age without immediately being labeled some sort of antifa level socialist ideaolog (as if being a right-winged libertarian anarchist somehow isn’t being an ideaolog).  You’re labeled an SJW, and you’re accused of virtue signaling to your fellow SJWs while pandering to the left’s lowest common denominators.

Need proof?  I refer you to the bullshit going on with Marvel comics right now.  A lot of what I can tell you is pretty much second-hand information at best.  Plus I’m strongly in favor of people actually looking it up and formulating their own fucking opinion instead of expecting my dumb ass to spoonfeed it to you.  But in any case, the current state of Marvel…  Well, the movies are doing all right, but the comics are a bit of a disaster right now.  I could probably forgive Ms. Marvel, on the grounds that Ms. Marvel (according to my own research) is less of a character, and more of a mantle handed down from heroine to heroine.  Then you get into things like Captain America just fucking off and shouting “Hile Hydra” so they can get the black guy the roll.  I’ve also heard of things like “Girl Thor”, “Asian Hulk”…  I think Storm might be transgendered now?  Or maybe I misunderstood my friend’s latest rant.  In any case, nobody asked for this.  I sure as shit didn’t want to throw Bruce Banner under the bus so some rando Asian guy could help Marvel show off how PC they are, bruh.  Wearing their sweet-ass Oakleys, and reminding us PC is the way to be for me.  And you.  WOO WOO!

Comparing my work, a work of fiction still in development with virtually no preestablished fanbase (unless fanbases from my previous novels counts, anyway), to Marvel, a studio that’s been around since the 1960s with an impressive legacy some SJW editor decided to wipe his ass with so we can recolor the heroes and find fascinating new ways to scream “FUCK WHITEY!” in approximately twenty-two pages, is probably not fair to me.  Or to Marvel, for all I know and care.  Dude, I WISH I was making Marvel cash at this point in my life, but I digress.

It’s an unfair comparison, sure, but it gives me an idea of the sort of fiction I want to desperately avoid.  Financially speaking, because according to the previously mentioned friend who’s given me all this information, it’s a direction that has thoroughly buttfucked Marvel’s sales.  Culturally speaking, because I’m not a social justice warrior.  We have some common ground, sure, but then you guys go and take it to a very psychotic level of nonsense that even I can’t agree with.

People will, and probably have accused me of having biases.  They’ll probably point out the liberal is the one in Charlie’s Chocolate Factory of Unspeakable Horrors is the soul survivor amongst a conservative, a libertarian, and a communist.  They’ll mention HikikoMorey takes potshots at The Tea Party.  They’ll mention how The Gael Saga demonizes capitalists by making Dan Adelson the A-list villain.  Right after the SJWs accuse me of using Gael as some sexist way of living out some foot fetish fantasy that demeans women, because fuck you for being a male.  Or whatever.

In all those cases…  Fair enough.  Even I’M not one-hundred percent unbiased.  But boy, the last thing I want to do is associate myself with a crowd that makes people like me look bad by association.

Once I’ve picked out a chapter or two I’d like to use as sample chapters, you’ll probably have a better idea of where these concerns are coming from.  Until then, I just want to get this off my chest, and out of my mind.

Reincarnation Blues, My Thoughts

1As much as I love the PEOPLE in my book club, the selections have left something to be desired.

I’ve tried The Rise and Fall of D.O.D.O. by Neil Stevenson, and I honestly wasn’t impressed.

I tried the first book in Illuminae, and the fact it was classified as young adult might as well have been the red flag to end all red flags.

I tried From a Buic 8 by Stephen King, and was honestly pretty disappointed with it.

So far, out of all the books we’ve picked as a group, the only one I can say I truly loved was Reincarnation Blues by Michael Poore.

Reincarnation and spirituality fascinate me.  Having been a kid growing up in the reddest part of Red Kansas, my only choices for religions were Catholicism, and Presbyterianism.  And when I say choices, I meant that my family was Presbyterian, and I had no choice but to be Presbyterian along with them.  So in other words, my spiritual studies could be summarized as “Jesus is correct, worship him or fuck off”.  But I’ve gone on that topic a bunch already, so I won’t bore you with it here.

Moving to the city, and gaining access to the internet were the best things that ever happened to me in this regard, because I found myself researching a lot about religion and spirituality over the course of my life.  I eventually settled on Baha’i, but even after settling, I still like to read what other religions have to say on this matter.  And Reincarnation Blues has an interesting interpretation of how reincarnation works.

Whether Reincarnation Blues builds its model of reincarnation on the Hindu, or the Buddhist concept is something I’m not entirely sure of.  I’m guessing the Buddhist version, considering one of the main character’s lifetimes was during the times of The Buddha himself, but honestly, Buddhism’s concept of the afterlife seems to borrow pretty heavily from Hindu.

The story, regardless, is fascinating.  At worst, I’d say it’s a bit on the predictable side the moment you find out there’s a finite number of lifetimes you’re allowed to have, and the fact the main character only has five more to go, but predictable isn’t the same as bad.

It’s all about attaining enlightenment, and going through “the sun door”.  What awaits you on the other side of the sun door?  Milo doesn’t seem all that interested at first, due to the fact the love of his life exists in the realm between lives.  Love makes you do crazy things.  It makes you lose count of lives and spend a lot of your time between them just hanging around deserts learning how to juggle.  I guess.  And here I thought it just made you forget smelling your girlfriend’s hair is considered creepy.  Don’t ask.

The humor in this book has been likened to Douglas Addams: author of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.  It really depends on which passage we’re talking about.  Sometimes, I can totally see it.  Other times, that seems like a stretch.  The book has its own, unique, dry sense of humor.  Life and death are clearly irrelevant, and it really needs to be that way, or else the concept of reincarnation really loses its power.

The audiobook is read by Mark Bramhall, and…  He’s okay.  Listening to him read is like listening to a bed time story read by my grandpa, honestly.  Although I don’t think my grandpa ever read me any bed time stories with this much death involved.  In any case, his performance isn’t distracting, and the story never feels like a chore at any point.

I honestly recommend this book.  I’ve even thought of giving it a second readthrough once I’m done with the monumental pile of crap I have in my Audible.com cue right now.  It’s totally worth your time.